Few things to keep in mind (elaborately covered in Anudeep sir and Mittali madam’s articles) :

  1. How we perform in the paper depends on the topics that we choose and how well acquainted we are with them. So, choose wisely based on your understanding of strengths and weaknesses.
  2. It is important to stick to the topic and the core idea that we are arguing. Many a times, simply not staying with the core thought and digressing with peripheral ideas may make it less appealing. For example, the topic this year “Poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere” , we may end up writing much about poverty alone and not elaborate on the ‘threat’ aspect.
  3. Understanding each term in the statement is very very important. Many mistakes happen and 125 marks are at stake because of this misunderstanding. See the Hindi translation and/or try to recollect contexts in which those words are used before. If still unclear, please choose a different topic. e.g. the word customary was misunderstood by a friend (“Customary morality cannot be a guide to modern life”).
  4. Practice is what makes a difference for many who consider themselves weak in this paper. Write and read your own essays after a week or so, you’ll figure out areas which you want to improve upon. Also, if someone is available, like a mentor or a friend, do ask them to read and work on the feedback. I personally have asked Vinay sir and my friends to read my essays. I feel self-assessment plays a significant role. Others can tell us what needs to be done but not the ‘how’ part. We need to work on it on our own.
  5. How we begin and end is important as we already know. There’s a primacy and recency effect which suggests the same. To leave a lasting impression, work on these.
  6. Use lot of examples to substantiate your arguments, and also explain the context of these examples clearly. Remember this is not GS but an essay. It’s very important to tell the examiner what you mean by a certain statement and this adds clarity to your thoughts. This is something that I’ve learnt from the feedback.
  7. Interpretations of the terms adds dimensions to your essay. For example, in the poverty essay, I interpreted it as poverty of ambition, poverty of empathy and so on. Similarly, in case of second essay, morality as a concept is defined differently. So, tell the examiner what you understand before you start putting out your ideas and arguments.

Based on the above aspects, I think being relatively stronger in both the topics that I chose and having thought about each of them elaborately before the exam worked in my favour. I have been very lucky in that case. The same person may not be able to do justice to all the topics because one can’t be thorough with everything. Having said that, we need to ensure that we cover basic aspects to write thoughtful essays (Refer above articles if still unclear). One lesson that almost everyone learnt this year was to not ignore the philosophical type of essays. So, if you consider that as a weakness, make sure you work on such topics now.  Aspects like how to structure the essay, how to write an introduction, sub-headings or not, balancing various sides of an argument, and so forth, are already covered by many rank-holders. So, I will try to cover what I wrote in the essays and how people can improvise if possible.